Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pastor Paul's Resignation Letter to NorthPoint

Numbers are fascinating things that tell amazing stories.
The Bible is filled with numerical patterns
which reveal God’s work with men, countries, and kingdoms. 

Nine is a number of completion.
Seventeen is victory and overcoming the enemy.
Forty is the Biblical number for trials, testing, or the fulfillment of a generation.

Pastor Chris and I have worked together at NorthPoint for nine years.
He began as my Associate, and for the past few years has been my ministry partner.
If you spoke with one of us, you were speaking with both of us.

Karen and I began at NorthPoint in October of 1995.
We have ministered together for twenty-one years.
We have worked through more challenges
than we can possibly remember.
And we have also been blessed to experience amazing
joy, pride, and satisfaction in ministry.

I was baptized in October of 1977.
So 2017 marks my 40th year in the Christian faith.
A significant number of completion for a sixty-one-year-old pastor
who began at NorthPoint when he was forty years old,
and is approaching his twenty-one-year anniversary.

I share this crazy collection of numbers with you as a way to prepare to say
that on January 1, 2017 I will be stepping down as a Pastor at NorthPoint.
It’s time to pass the baton of leadership to the next generation.

Together, we have worked through trials, completed seasons of ministry,
seen some amazing things come to completion,
and now you are entering a new and powerful season of victory.

Pastor Chris, the Board, and I have been praying
and seeking God’s will for many months.
This past week my way forward became very clear.
After much prayer and soul searching I knew what needed to be done!

I want to say how much I love and appreciate my wife
for standing and serving with me for the past 38 years.

I love my precious son and his family.
I love watching his passion and vision grow day by day.

I love and respect the members of our Ministry Board for wrestling deeply
with the financial realities of our ministry.

Last but not least I want to thank you,
and say I love you to the precious people of NorthPoint.
Many of you are new to this church.
Some of you were hear twenty-one years ago when I began.

You are in a great church
with great leaders and a great future.
You are in a special place where God is on the move.
And the best is yet to come!

In the weeks ahead your Ministry Board
will begin the process of raising up your next Lead Pastor.
They have some awesome thoughts which I fully support.

For now, I look forward to my next three months of ministry with you,
and covet your prayers for the next forty years of Karen’s and my life and ministry.
I love you, and thank you for the privilege of serving with you!

Pastor Paul

Saturday, September 24, 2016

CIRCLE OF LOVE--by Linden Malki

We've been learning about God through the images Jesus showed; but what do we know about God?  The Psalmist (Psalm 100) tells us that the LORD is God; the ruler of the Universe. He made us, and we are His; His people and the sheep of His pasture. He tells us something else that we should never forget: The Lord is Good, His love endures forever. And not just as mushy emotion: His faithfulness continues through all generations. This included generations and centuries of the people forgetting an rejecting and repenting and coming back and falling away; it wasn't that they didn't know (most of the time) but they didn't pay attention well. We see the judgment of God and the patience of God interacting.
Finally the time came for God to do more than talk and rescue and nag and promise. It was time to put life to the promises: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) This one sentence says several things about God, Love, and His Son, all wrapped up in one package. Again, the first thing it says is that God only loves the world He created, but loves it to the point of involving His Son, His connection with this world. He gave Jesus first to teach us that God is the Lord of the Universe and King of everything; and then to gather everything He had said about repentance and sacrifice and restoration into one life and death and life experience, so that those who accept and understand can follow Him not only throughout this life but forever.
Jesus, as the climax was coming, told not only His followers but those who and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:35-36) Jesus' prayed, with the disciples in the Upper Room on that last evening: I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. He had told them more: the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God, and a last command: This is my command: Love each other. (John 17:23; 16:27; 15:17).

We see God loving His people; the Father loving the Son; the Father loving His followers as they love and believe Jesus, we loving each other. and at the beginning, the oldest of the commandments: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)  I see it as one giant circle of love and commitment that will become a never-ending community of mutual love! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Life--and LIFE--by Linden Malki

Small boy dragging a furry object by the tail across the kitchen floor: "Look, Ma! Somebody threw away a perfectly good cat!"  It's not hard to figure out why the cat wasn't "perfectly good", even though a totally relaxed cat can look scarily like he won't wake up. At some point growing up, we learn the difference between the small boy's cat and the one stretched out on the floor next to my desk right now.  This is one of those concepts that seems simple until you think about it, and try to explain it to a small child.

Where do we first see "life"?  In Genesis 1 we read of the creation of plants that bear seeds and fruit; and then "living creatures" in the sea and on land. And then in Genesis 2:7, we see the specific creation of a man, and the specific giving of the breath of life to the man.  The other side of the coin comes later: the man is told that disobedience to one instruction will result in "dying."  We do not know how much understanding Adam had of the consequence of disobedience; obviously not enough; but then how could they know enough?  We learn more from experience than from words.

For the last hundred years or so, there have been efforts made to come up with a logical, 'evolutionary" explanation of Life, and how it differs from something that is not alive; and to make it even more complicated, how generations of "live" plants and animals appear in what seems to be a consistent pattern. One thing that has made it harder to explain is the discovery of the chemical nature of DNA and other components of living cells, and how complex they are even in the smallest and apparently simplest creatures.  They still haven't come up with any better explanation than the one we start with: life is something that is basic to  the creatures themselves and given by God Himself. In Hebrew, the word for "breath" and "Spirit" are the same (think about how the the English word "inspiration" can mean the physical taking in of air and the awareness of something our minds recognize as above and beyond the physical brain).

We live on two levels: we know that our physical lives are finite; that the end is not "if" but "when and how". But what we see in Jesus is another kind of life. Peter put it like this: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. ... You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God, for 'All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower fall, but the word of the Lord abides forever."" (I Peter 1-2; 23-25)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Partnership! by Linden Malki

Caring for a vineyard is work! Looking at the care required to produce a good crop of grapes, I got to wondering how the whole routine developed. If you were to ask a vintner, I'm sure that he would tell of his mentors, his boss, his fathers and grandfathers, those who taught him. It is amazing that this process has been going on not just for years, but for millenia. In Scripture, we have stories of vineyards going back for over at least three thousand years--and in other places, other histories, it's "always" been done this way. I can't help thinking that there is just more than mere accident going on here; at some points, possibly more than one time and place, people were inspired to do the things that grew into the settled routine that we now know. We were not created knowing everything anyone might ever need to know; we were created with the ability to learn. We have the capacity to learn things that our ancestors never needed; even isolated members of a non-literate culture can learn to read and write given the opportunity.

God created grapevines; by working in partnership with His creation and His inspiration, we have better grapes and more ways of using them than just picking wild grapes at random. I am constantly amazed at the variety--there are not only an incredible number of kinds of grapes, but how they are used makes different foods and a huge variety of wines. (Look around--there is incredible variety in everything!)

And it's not just grapes! Another basic food that comes from the same part of the world is olives. It's interesting to see someone who sees their first olive tree will pick an olive and discover that right off the tree it's inedible. What is amazing is here again, not only who first figured out how to efficiently extract the oil, and the useful things that it's good for; but also how to process the fruit into something that is not only edible but delicious? My in-laws are from a part of the world where olives grow, and I have learned some of the ways olives are processed for eating. Again, there has been inspiration at work; I would never have dreamed up how to do on my own.

My father-in-law, who grew up speaking Turkish, and had some familiarity with the Syriac version of Scripture, always insisted that the "land of milk and honey" was actually "yogurt and honey." It makes sense that Western translators, not familiar with yogurt in all its varieties, would translate mentions of what was probably yogurt as sour or curdled milk. Here again, who would think of using the intestinal contents of animals to extract cultures that produce yogurt and cheese? There is a legend of Abraham being taught this by God Himself; we know that in Genesis 18, Abraham served it to his mysterious visitors.

God doesn't just drop food into our waiting hands; yes, there are some things that we eat just as they grow, but so many of the things we eat and enjoy are a partnership between God's creation and inspiration, and our efforts and skills to make amazing and delicious foods! How many other things do we take as ordinary are really a partnership between God and His people, and people with each other?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Chosen Lamb--by Linden Malki

Once upon a time there was an adventurous lamb who didn't want to stay with his flock.  "My Daddy's the biggest, baddest ram in this whole flock, and I should be able to do what I want.  Hmmm--there's some interestng bushes over there that look good--wonder how they would taste?  Nobody even lets me try them!  My mum keeps telling ne to listen to the shepherd, pay attention to the dogs...I am so sick of those dogs! Look at those wild sheep up on the hillside--it looks like they're having fun--interesting places to climb!
I'm just gonna go look at those bushes---just gonna get a look, well, maybe a taste. Mm, that's interesting.  And look--there's a thin spot in the bushes that might be worth looking at....if I scootch way down, I bet I could wiggle through here and those nosy dogs won't even see me. This looks like an interesting path; wonder where it goes? It looks like water over there, but it doesn't look like any water I've ever seen before; it's all white and foamy. not smooth and clear. Oops, those are rocks and they're slippery; boy, was that close! What happened to the path? It looks like I can just reach that flat rock and get on my way! Uh-oh, my hoof just slithered right off that rock's stuck. I don't like this any more. Hey, are those the sheep dogs coming? No--those aren't dogs; they're bigger and scruffier and have big teeth. BAA! BAA! HELP!"

Meanwhile, back at the flock, the dogs were restless. Someone was missing! It's that one who always wants to do something different! The shepherd noticed that the dogs were looking for something. One of the mama sheep was looking anxious; not all of her lambs were following her. Then the shepherd heard a bleating noise outside the perimenter of the flock, and noticed a white spot on the hillside that was moving but not getting anywhere--and a couple of large ominous dark shapes where heading in its direction. The shepherd got a good grip on his staff, and found the thin spot in the bushes, pushed his way through, and ran for the white spot on the bank of the creek. The skulking not-dogs spotted the approaching shepherd, found the staff blocking the way to supper; time to look somewhere else. The shepherd bent down and carefully freed the stuck hoof, picked up the trembling lamb, and carried him back to the flock.                                                                                                    

The shepherd sighed. "You probably don't understand anything I'm saying, but I wish you could. You don't realize that your flock is special. Most sheep only live to grow wool, make milk, and eventually become the food that sustains people. But the best of the sheep, the perfect lambs (and I'm very pleased that your hoof didn't get hurt) become part of something important. All sheep--like every other creature--is destined to die. But the perfect lambs like you will give your lives as an offering to God. who created you as well as all of us. You will be part of an act of worship, where something of value--you--are given in thanksgiving, and in memory of a time when a lamb's blood saved the lives of the people who used to mark the houses of God's chosen people. And someday, a special Shepherd will give His lifeblood to sve all those who are part of His special Flock, those who follow Him. Your death--like that of the Good Shepherd--will come not from the wolves, but will be a symbol of the price paid for the sins of the world."